Is Keto a cult or groupthink?

(Art ) #1

The other day I found myself and another forum participant talking past each other when it was clear we were preaching to the same choir we both belong to.

My original premise was that in the ‘adapt’ stage and those on a keto diet wanting to lose weight (which by default would include them being at some level of ketosis) that reduced calorie intake was required to lose weight. The other person wanted to argue that ketosis was necessary ( I never said it wasn’t and stated at least by inclusion in the original premise that is was (although now I believe it may or may not be after further research)

I started to ask myself why is this person defending what we both agree on and then began to realize it was much like the classic bit in Monty Python’s Life of Brian where splits in Brian’s followers occur between the shoe and the gourd.

Then I started thinking about cults themselves and the typical traits of cults and realized that keto followers have many of those (me included until I had these doubts).

Cults - groupthink - firehouse chat, etc.

A few intros -

We’ve probably all known someone that just became ‘born again’ and easily becomes the most vociferous of bible thumpers despite a life long history of lying, cheating, stealing and often with no plans to change any of that because they’re now operating under god’s forgiveness. What the hell would they need yours for?

Here is someone I knew personally -

Now in an interenetwebs first - I’d like to apologize and correct something I strongly argued for just a few days ago.

To nurse April - I was wrong to tell you to circumvent your current employer. Not for any of the reasons others suggested but specifically because I learned from a friend that tried keto starting New Years 2019 and by early February was having heart and Afib issues that there can be serious side affects for some people on keto.

Basically, he started keto to lose some extra weight but he was an otherwise fit and active 52 year old. In the first month he had a paroxysmal atrial fibrillation that sent him the the ER and an overnight in the ICU. Once back in sinus rhythm he resumed his keto diet and had a second attack in March that just about coincided with the release of the study on the link between keto diets and Afib. At that time he stopped doing keto and has had no more afib events and is not on any meds.

I hadn’t heard of this before and came to this forum and other sources to understand better as is my role as a keto cult member.

But what I saw were basically blanket denials and criticisms of the research and protocols itself instead of a non-cultish view of “hmmmm… it could be possible for some people” and even an understanding of published research, peer review and other responsibilities out of my lane and above my paygrade.

So is keto a cult ?

Here’s a new study released in JAMA (with full expectations that it will be attacked from many angles - if not already elsewhere in the forum)

With all of that said - here’s what I think keto is good for:

  1. Helps develop diet discipline: for me fast food, and processed junk are out of my life for good.

  2. Helps make IF possible and easier: the full feeling that comes from keto makes 18 hour + fasting and OMAD much easier to tolerate.

  3. Resets sweet sensors - I cheated the other day at a restaurant and ordered a Coke Zero out of old habit. It tasted like hell. A few sips was all I needed and I dumped it out (self serve refills) and had water. Brocolli is now ‘sweet to me’ as are a lot of vegetables.

  4. Partially responsible in reversing type II: The data is equally strong for fasting as it is for keto. While I don’t see me adding cake and ice cream anytime soon (except pastries when I am in Paris) I’m ok with having a little bit of carbs at the end of any meal. (currently 2MAD).

  5. Retrains the cellular performance of those with metabolic syndrome and type II to normal. This return to normalcy can promote higher activity levels in those that were sedentary or extremely fatigued after exercise.

Probably some other things I am not thinking of right now or haven’t experienced yet but that’s enough for now.

The question remains though - Is keto a cult or at the least a groupthink and are you able to accept and adapt to new information that contradicts your current view of keto as the cat’s pajamas?

A few days ago I believed it was. I have some doubts now.

The most definitive proof that this is a cult or groupthink will be if this post is deleted.

(Bob M) #2

That study on afib is garbage:

During the project, the participants reported how much of 66 different foods they ate. Researchers then used a nutrient database to estimate how much carbohydrates the participants ate each day, and what percentage of the total calories they consumed came from that energy source.

66 foods, asked through food frequency questionnaires. I eat basically meat, some dairy, eggs, and some vegetables. How many eggs did I eat the last few weeks? I have no freaking clue. Some weeks, I eat a lot, other weeks none.

The chance that that study comes to a conclusion that is correct is zero.

(Bob M) #3

My God, what a piece of garbage that study and the reporting are:

Those in the low-intake group consumed about 44 percent of their calories in the form of carbohydrates.

What does this have to do with keto?

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #4

Right. “Disagree with me and prove you’re an ignorant idiot”. :rofl:

Short answer: sure it can be, but not necessarily. Pretty much anything can be turned into a cult.

Longer answer: Sometimes the ‘need to believe in’ something, or anything, can become the denial of inconvenient facts or even refusal to acknowledge the possibility of them. As long as one remains committed to examination, evidence, evaluation, testing, even if only to determine ‘what works for me’, I don’t think most of us are in danger of surrendering to the ‘cult of keto’.

(Art ) #5

“disagree…” - not at all. Just want to learn from the discussion.

There are definitely some here drinking a lot more Kool-Aid than they should on keto.

@bob - praise be.

(Heather Meyer) #6

I think in some cases…Keto can be a cult like any other diet or religion or cultural society. But i thimk for the most part, what people end up experiencing is “confirmation bias”. People search for information that further proves the existence or belief in somthing. I think this is pretty typical of almost any diet book i have read. But a confirmation bias does not equal cult or groupthink necessarily.

Am i in a Keto cult? Nope! I will look at informaton in a critical manner before drawing a conclusion. I dont follow simply because someone says somthing is “good”. I analyze the available research and combined with the research and personal N=1 experiments, decide if the information presented is “good” for me.

I personally believe that NOT 1 diet or lifestyle is good for EVERY person. I have a Vegan, high carbohydrate, raw, fruit loving friend who has dropped over 130 lbs, reversed depression and is cited as being healthy according to her Doctor and now teaches naturopathic medicine. If i went on that lifestyle…i would put on at least 30 lbs in a month or so because my body doesnt respond well to sugars and carbs. I also have a friend who can eat nothing more than carnivore or else their systematic yeast problem returns. Each body poses its own composition and uniquely coded system, demanding its own individually tailored “diet”. Even Dr. Jason Fung said that he believes their are two types of people (sugar burners and fat burners) Each type functions better on one than the other. I think its shameful really, to slap a one-size-fits-all.

(Cristian Lopez) #7

Man this is a fantastic qoute!
@PortHardy I think on the same premises.

(hottie turned hag) #8

From the linked article:
"Dr. Khandwalla told Healthline that the medical conditions that prompt some people to adopt low-carb diets — diabetes and obesity, for example — could be the real cause of AFib rather than their choice of foods itself.

Zhuang acknowledged that his team’s work doesn’t prove that significantly cutting back on carbohydrates leads to an abnormal heartbeat.

To know for certain would require following up with a randomized controlled study, he said."

Enough said. The article itself was horribly written and poorly proofread; they spelled “atherosclerosis”, “arthrosclerosis” :laughing: #dumbass
The funniest part was that the “low carb” group was getting 44% of their intake from carbs. 44%!!

As to your postulation re: cultish thinking, this exists in segments of a population sample in any and all things. There are always those annoying zealots who piss off the saner members of any group.

Some examples from my own life wherein I found more than a few folk participating with a cultish zeal I found irritating:

dance mothers :woman:

PTA mothers :woman_red_haired:

animal advocacy/dog rescue :dog:

mothers of chronically ill children (one of mine developed Crohn’s at age 10 so I got to be a member of this fun group :tada:)

mothers of chronically ill children with congenital abnormalities/syndromes (I work with these parents doing genetics counseling) :brain:

self help devotees (many neighbors/folks in my social circle) :raising_hand_woman:

wine aficionados :wine_glass:

art aficionados (often overlap with above) :framed_picture:

conservative patriots (me and most of my household) :us:

liberal millenials (one of my kids to my dismay) :cry:
…just off the top of my head.

(Ron) #10

[Removed ^^ reference to a previous post that has been deleted to avoid confusion. -carolt]

As for Afib, I’ll share my personal experience.
Before Keto I was 100 lbs overweight, T2d, and suffered from Afib episodes about twice a month. It was a scary situation to say the least.
I elected to go Keto against my doctors advice. The first month in I had an episode with the heart that put me in the emergency room as well. This also made me question Keto so I decided to research as much as I could find before bailing on this lifestyle.What I learned was that it is critical in the beginning to manage your electrolytes closely. I started managing my potassium and magnesium intake on the high side of recommended levels and monitoring my vitals regularly. Doing this allowed me to continue on my Keto path without any Afib episodes. I have been Keto for 1 1/2 years now and not had an Afib incident since. I have also been able to return to normal levels on my electrolytes and can now tell with my body responses when I get a little low on them. I no longer worry about Afib.


Its neither, keto is way too flexible to be compared to something like religious cult that consists of strict set of rules. Theres only one “rule” in keto and its that ur carb intake needs to be low enough to force ketosis, even for that there is no set numbers cause everyones different.

And for groupthink, that can happen in any situation in life and in any context that has more than 1 person. Labeling whole keto movement as groupthink or cult is just daft and meaningless.

What is ur goal with this whole thread?

(squirrel-kissing paper tamer) #12

You’re welcome to post evidence for or against the keto diet on this forum and it can be discussed rationally. Suggesting someone is in a cult because they dispute information you’ve presented is silly. The forum is founded on showing scientific sources to back up an idea. Of course, that can often come from conflicting places which is why evidence based discussion is encouraged.

Don’t tempt me.


Please don’t start with this new SJW bull, this forum is a place of smart adults who take responsibility for their own actions and not the trenches for fighting political correctness and shouting “free speech, free speech!”

Keto isn’t a cult, anyone can leave whenever he/she wants, we are all adults, we can do whatever we like. :wink: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, science isn’t 100%, we are all still learning…and if we are wrong, it is nice to know that we have someone to teach us, so we know better. Groupthink maybe, some forums for sure, but you are an adult, you make your own decisions and you can engage with others or choose to distance yourself.


Some people make coffee drinking into a cult - and yes, i’ve seen signs of that on this forum. :slight_smile:

Of course some people make their keto adherence cultish. But that is down to them, not the keto.

Let’s face it, anyone who is of a cultish mindset can pick any subject they like and lay their own perspective over the top, turning it into a fundamentalist dogma.

In the past, I have been a member of several different groups (dietary, meditation, educational, political, and of course forums), where fellow members have shown cultish belief systems and behaviours. The more agreement and the less healthy questions there are, the quicker the rot sets in.

Doesn’t mean that I buy into that mindset. I get bored of fundamentalism about 10 seconds after I get sprayed with saliva from the first overly enthusiastic rebuttal/denial/buzzword.

(Polly) #15

I think you have asked some valid questions, but I think the answer to them will be as varied as the membership.

It does not seem cult-like to me because there is a vast range of acceptable dietary practices amongst the members of the forum. Many of us are working on our own n=1 experiment with the aim of becoming the healthiest human we are capable of at this particular time in our life.

I am aware that I cannot get away with eating some foods which others consume with impunity but I would not consider criticising anyone for doing the thing which works for them.

People here seem pretty open to reading and considering research. There is also doubt about the veracity of some research because of the source of funding for it and because peer reviewed science itself no longer seems to be necessarily the gold standard. There is an element of cult think amongst peer reviewers which causes some scientific papers to be rejected from publication.

Perhaps as a group we are more aware of this as a possibility than many.


If you came here originally to look at afib topics, then there are plenty of them. Most heart palpitation symptoms can be attributed to electrolyte imbalances. Some people, like me, have seen an improvement in symptoms we had before we started keto. Another person I know solved their afib issues with fasting and supplementation. @FrankoBear had afib problems for reasons he attibuted to magnesium deficiency which is discussed at length here…

I don’t think keto is the greatest plan for everyone. [I don’t think any one diet is appropriate for everyone.] It is beneficial to me largely because of the effect of keto on my appetite and cognition, with the bonus of keeping me from following famlily members down the road to diabetes. We try to provide information appropriate to everyone who asks for it, regardless of the reason they want to try it. Since keto has gone more mainstream in the last year or two, it does have a faddish, bandwagon appeal to some people.

Bad science, and its influence on nutrition and medical policy, is what got us into this mess of chronic disease states. I am trying to reverse years of damage to my body caused by eating inappropriate foods even when I was following guidelines. Yes, we question studies that are flawed and in the way they are spun in the media to mean something they don’t. Sometimes that means digging for hours through scientific jargon and learning about things I didn’t know before.

(Art ) #17

Blue Violet - do you think the rise in people identifying strongly with one group or cause or another is the result of social isolation and / or the erosion of belief in organized religions?

If you’ve ever spent any time on Nextdoor the ‘dog cult’ is strong. You mention conservatives - definitely occurs on both sides the way we’ve allowed our (as a nation) thinking to become more and more polarized.

Just a symptom of the times?

(Art ) #18

10 seconds is a long time under these conditions. :joy:


Please be aware that hot button topics like religion and politics are beyond the scope of community guidelines. If you want to continue talking about keto-related ideas instead, that would be great.

This means everyone, not just Art.

(Bacon enough and time) #20

What will save us from becoming a cult is the Dudes’—and our own—commitment to science. As Feynman said, “The first rule of science is that you must not fool yourself, and you’re the easiest one to fool.” If we stick to reliable studies, we should be fine.

The problem is that so much research in the field of human nutrition is of such poor quality that it would be laughed out of court by scientists in any other discipline. Partly, this is because experimenting on human beings is difficult, expensive, and often fraught with ethical problems, but partly it’s because, in the U.S. at least, the model has been partnership between academic researchers and businesses—which, as Tim Noakes points out in his own case, distorts your thinking, even when you don’t believe it is doing so. As Dr. Malcolm Kendrick points out, it is very often possible to determine the conclusions of a paper before reading it, simply from inspecting the list of authors.

An example is the study on ketosis and atrial fibrillation mentioned at the top of this thread. It is demonstrably crap, for reasons pointed out in other posts. Another reason is that there is now solid research showing that the heart muscle actually thrives best on β-hydroxybutyrate. This is clearly a paper written with an agenda, not science, in mind.

We have to admit, however, that for us as individuals, we often find revising our view of the universe to be such a chore that we don’t want to be too changeable. This does lead to confirmation bias and a readiness to reject data that don’t confirm our bias, but how else can we lead a sane life? Too much readiness to change our thinking can be as destructive as too much unwillingness to do so. We have to find a balance. We need to bear this in mind as we approach others and their confimation bias, so that we can present our data effectively and with compassion.

For myself, I find the logic that a well-formulated ketogenic diet is actually the proper human diet to be compelling, so much so that I agree with Dr. Berry that we should stop calling it “LCHF” or “keto” and simply call it “the proper human diet.” For this reason, I don’t expect data to suddenly pop up showing that ketosis is an unhealthy state. But if someone were to publish such a study, and if I couldn’t find some way of knocking holes in it, then my commitment in such a case is—has to be—to revise my thinking, at whatever cost.

(Susan) #21

This is right on the money, and most of us are here to do that and encourage all the others in this pursuit as well =).